Even after the euphoria of Sankranti, the celebration of Mother Earth and her produce, is long over, the craving for pithe and payesh in our household continues unabated.
Enough to annoy Maa such that Grandma needs to play the pacifist.
The gur season shall soon get over Bouma, Grandma reasons, let them savour these delicacies to their hearts content.
And given that consensus is onerous to come by, (if I ask for my favourite Gokul Pithe, Dada insists on Sujir Doodhpuli and Bapi, who for once doesn’t hesitate lending support to our pithe-puli clamours, sticks to the classic Doodhpuli), the kitchen continues to work on an overdrive, whipping up a veritable feast of these winter delights every other day.
But then, one day, the nolen gur does run out.
Manikkaka is dispatched to the market to scout for any shop that still has that last kolshi of the coveted nolen gur. But when he returns mid morning with a sullen face, I am quick to realise that the mission has been unsuccessful.
Didi is then sent to check with neighbours. If any of them has a little nolen gur that they can spare. That too draws a blank.
But who shall explain to a nine year and an eleven year old that it shall need to be a year’s wait before the nectar is available again.
But Grandmas are endowed with infinite wisdom and no crisis whatsoever is compelling enough to subdue them.
Let me make a new pithe today for the two of you, she consoles, something that you have never savoured earlier.
The Doulla Pithe that Grandma (Bamma) creates is sheer magic – Pillowy rice flour parcels with a tiny morsel of patali hidden in the center. Stewed in milk perfumed with even more patali gur.
Have a bite, Grandma coaxes.
And the molten patali bursts out of the shackles of the rice flour cocoon.
The fragrance of patali and the perfume of rice leave my palate enthralled.
I take another bite.
It took me years to realise that Grandma had improvised over the classic Doulla Pithe, where the rice flour is cooked in jaggery water to make the dough.
But when smiles of the two people, most precious to her, are at stake, poetic licences as these are more than permitted.
So when S returns home with a request for pithe, I let nostalgia wrest control. I return to the halcyon days in Karimganj and make Grandmas version of Doulla Pithe, with the surprise of a patali nibble hidden in the rice flour case.
Far better than lava cakes, comes the verdict.
And I am beaming like a Cheshire Cat.
So what is Sankranti is over ?
If you are as zealous a fanatic about your pithe puli as I am, do give this version of Doulla Pithe a try.
Bamma'r Doulla Pithe
For the rice dough balls
- 1 cup rice flour for best results use freshly ground atop chal
- 1/2 cup khejur patali or date palm jaggery grated
- a pinch of salt
- ghee for greasing
For the kheer
- 2 lit whole milk
- 1/3 cup nolen gur or liquid date palm jaggery
For the rice dough balls
- Pour 1.25 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pan, add a sprinkle of salt, bring to a boil. Lower the flame, add the rice powder to the boiling water while stirring continuously with a spatula for 30 seconds. If it gets too dry, feel free to splash a little water and mix. Switch off the flame, give it a standing time of 10 odd minutes.
- Take the rice mixture on a greased plate, while it is still warm and just comfortable enough to handle, knead well to form a smooth dough. Cover with a wet cloth, keep aside.
- Tear off a small dough ball from the rice flour dough, press it gently in the middle using your thumb to form a small round cup.
- Place a small portion of the grated jaggery in the middle of the cup. Very gently bring the edges of the dough cup together to cover the jaggery and make a round ball with your palms, ensuring there are no cracks.
- Repeat the same for rest of the dough, keep the stuffed dough balls aside.
Assembling the Doodh Doulla Pithe
- Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, let it simmer over a low flame till it reduces to little more than one third in volume. Stir frequently.
- Gently add the dumplings one by one into the milk. Cook over a low flame for about 10-12 mins.
- Stir the milk very carefully, just a couple of times. Switch off the flame, add the nolen gur. Feel free to add more nolen gur if you want it sweeter. Give it a gentle stir.
- Serve either warm or at room temperature.